Friday, March 26, 2010

Vampire Weekend Return to Chicago: Riviera Theatre, 3.25.10

The young Brooklyn quartet run onto stage, seemingly more youthful in person than I expected; with high energy and excitement greeting the crowd and taking their places. They strap on their guitars and immediately begin with the newer track, “White Sky” the crowd goes in an uproar with elation. The set continues with “Holiday”the next track on their most recent release, Contra; playing with intensity in an upbeat tempo. Bassist, Chris Baio is dancing and jumping in place as Ezra Koening croons the crowd with his smoothly soft voice. Afterwards he casually greets the crowd, “Hello Chicago” he sings with this macho confidence, dancing around with his guitar. Koening has a “Jailhouse Rock” presence to his performance style, demanding attention as he serenades the audience with crowd favorite, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”. Keeping a playful manner with the audience, we are orchestrated to assist the band with the chorus; energy stays upbeat through performance as the crowd is ecstatic to sing along.

Quickly spitting out lyrics, Koening sings “California English” as the song breaks down to his bare strum on the guitar he shakes his hips and Christopher Tomson crashes in on his drums. The band continues raising the intensity and tempo; with a quick strum everyone on stage and in the crowd are jumping and moving their feet. The lights dim, Rostam Batmanglij takes a seat at his keyboards as the other three appear as though they are playing on a street corner with more classical instrumentation. The girls swoon, chandeliers hang above the stage and the mystery blonde(album cover) hangs as a backdrop, glowing overhead in an eerie fashion. Koening shakes his head as he reaches a high note, often on his toes, he points into the crowd. Taking a breather and “giving the audience a moment” checking everyone's status throughout; he flirts with his fans, smirking with confidence and beckoning all of us to bounce along. Continuing to brag about the number of stops through Chicago thus far, he reminds those of the warm temperatures from last year's Lollapalooza, once again requesting aide with the chorus. With strobe lights flashing, there is a rhythmic synchronization between the drums and Koening's fast guitar strum emulate the heart thudding sound of a machine gun reverberating throughout the old theatre weaving into a mixture of African inspired beats and chants. Each member has a unique approach to dancing about stage as they strum along with the song. The sea of teenagers sway back and forth in awe, singing along and pounding their fists in the air with the chorus. I think the appeal has a lot to do with the combination of these jovial melodies and this sense of adolescence in the lyrics as the Brooklyn quartet retain this playful disposition on adult hood as they dance and sing these sugar-dipped tunes on stage.
After a brief break, the band returns to stage thanking the crowd and requesting one more sing-along chorus. As Ezra utters the words, “In the summer...” the theatre explodes with excitement as everyone sings the verses to “Horchata”. Tomson continues to pound on the drums in a pseudo tribal/marching band fashion. Koening playfully teases the crowd to keep up the intensity for the next song, commenting on the early hour. He challenges everyone to move their body for the next two minutes, they begin playing “Mansard Roof” at a fast pace. Stomping his feet and speedily strumming his guitar, getting alarmingly close to the outreached hands of the crowd. Canvas Nikes are the new blue suede shoes, as the crooning New Yorker shakes his hips; he bids farewell pointing in the air and singing with a suave machismo. The drums pounding hard, lights flashing, crowd jumping...strums and an explosion of cheers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SXSW: Day One-Warpaint Rules!!!

My SXSW festivities (first-time) began with an overwhelming mixture of excitement, confusion and a mild sense of nervousness unfamiliar of what to expect but confident regardless, I would have the opportunity to see some exciting acts and reunite with familiar faces I have seen in the past. Getting my bearings of Sixth St and laying out the land for Wednesday's day parties, I quickly headed towards The Mohawk for my first show of the week( The Austinist's day party). Taking pause to realize the crowds surrounding a parking garage were enjoying an AOL/Spinner pop up show featuring Broken Bells. The line wasn't too bad quickly squeezing through the packed bar; I am staring up at portraits of bearded men lining the bar (an obvious highlight of the bar, that had similarly bearded men slinging drinks to patrons). The crowd from the previous act's ambient environ depart the tiny room as the Silver Lake, CA quartet known as Warpaint set up for their performance. Definitely a band high on my priority list to see while in Austin, their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse has been on repeat since learning about them in early November. An album, which also made the year's top EP list.

Warpaint-The Mohawk: Austinist Day Party

Without note, music begins with a heavy thumping bass line and a delicately seductive delivery of verse creating a happy, yet funky harmony that has the crowded room dancing along. Almost in a meditative trance the girls establish an aura of ease and comfort. Genuinely one with their instrumentation there is a natural flow and transition in their song that captivates the audience as they seamlessly play into the popular single, “Stars”. Witnessing their music live is much more magical and ethereal than what's recorded as the quartet noticeably have a tendency to allow the music to control the length of play. Vocals are shared between guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman; there is a warm contrast in style of delivery that unite in verse in a harmonious fashion. With a concentrated focus on their music the girls continue to play on, keeping an upbeat tempo throughout the set; bassist, Jenny Lee Lindberg spends most of the performance swaying and bouncing in the direction of the drummer, Stella Mozgawa. Stripping away the intensity to expose a gentle stroke on the guitar and a low intangible melody; complimenting the vocals of Kokal's (similar to Portishead's Beth Gibbons) serene and sultry sound with Wayman's (much like Karen O) delivery that has a sharper more punchier insistence. Finally greeting the crowd with a jovial, “how y'all doin'?” the girls take a deep breath noting two more songs and introduce “Elephants”. A song that has a soft onset and ultimately breaks down into a chaotic high tempo congruous explosion of sound. With an array of layers in their music which overlap upon each other transitioning back and forth from soft to heavy, it's nearly a system overload of music chewy center (almost something enjoyed more privately). Already with a yearning desire for more I quickly determine my next opportunity to enjoy the harmonic amalgamation of this Silver Lake, quartet.

Freelance Whales-Galaxy Room: Paste Party

I quickly bolt over to the Galaxy Room on Sixth, where the Freelance Whales are tuning up and a good sized crowd eagerly wait for their set to commence. Sunlight dims through the windows and Paste creator, Josh Jackson arrives on stage to express his excitement and honor to introduce, Freelance Whales. With a pluck at the banjo and orchestrated howls in the air, the set begins with “Generator First Floor” the opening track on their soon to be released debut, Weathervanes. There's a magical sensation that exudes from stage as the quintet from Queens,NY sings in an off-tune synchronized fashion and this rural fantastical tale unravels with each word Judah Dadone sings in verse. Quirky noises and orchestrated melodies ring from the rest of the band as Chuck Criss tings away on the glockenspiel. After a short greeting, Dadone continues with the set punching away at the keyboard. The group exhibits passion and emotion with each breath; resuming their high intensity performance, with second track, “Hannah”. They briefly mention their own excitement to be playing, this is Freelance Whales debut at SXSW. Continuing to play, alternating in tempo with intensive energy and animation on the arsenal of instruments arranged on stage; painting colorful imagery of a farmhouse love story that transitions through a bittersweet narrative emitting a combination of happy and sad simultaneously. Guitar distortion reverberates from Kevin Read's bow as Doris Cellar sways the harmonium back and forth. There's an introverted geek fashion of dance occurring on stage as this quintet continues this sweet saga, singing along eyes closed with affection. The set concludes with the happy sing along “Generator Second Floor” with plenty of the crowd dancing and assisting in vocals. Judah shakes with emotion, as the contrasting beauty of his voice with Cellar's exhibit this romantic magical affection.

Acrylics-Peckerheads: The Music Slut Day Party

Making it inside as the band begins their first notes with Molly Shea singing lead as Travis Rosenburg and Jason Klauber playing along with two additional band members. Im immediately re submerged into this cinematic weaving of layered sounds and romanticized lyrics. Saying hello and comically beckoning the crowd to approach the stage, Jason smoothly bargains for a beer before the music returns. Having a more full-bodied sound with the additional instrumental support while retaining the endearing intimacy present in an old Western love story. Travis delicately brings in the next tune plucking the melody on a slide guitar, before the tempo explodes in a crash of drums with the song's chorus. Jason and Molly quickly dispensing each verse, singing towards a symbiotic bright future. Keeping a conversational connection with the audience, Jason continues to jokingly banter back and forth with the lone howler in the crowd. Ultimately he announces the next song, “Molly's Vertigo” pointing over to Molly introducing her, who bashfully says, “hi”. Contradictory to her shy disposition she sings with excitement and passion exploding with personality on stage deciphering her thoughts and feelings through the song's subject-matter. After quickly swapping guitars and requesting more acoustic, Jason begins strumming a newer song; a sweet love song nostalgic for 70s era duet. This afternoon's set comes to a conclusion with the EP's title track, “All of the Fire”; ending a strong performance for a crowd seemingly unknowing of expectation but in awe with an imminent enjoyment of a lyrically amazing young band.

Finally getting an opportunity to catch my breath and feed my blood sugar level, and returned to the Galaxy Room and patiently wait for Paste's headliner of the day, Frightened Rabbit. The crowd slowly trickles in and begins filling the once emptied room chattering with excitement of the first day's festivities listing the day's parties that topped each other's lists. Keeping patience as it becomes apparent the band's having issues with instruments quickly determining a resolution to make the afternoon's performance worthwhile.

Frightened Rabbit-Galaxy Room:Paste Party

The sun slightly sets through the window dimming the room and the band is ready for their set. Scott Hutchinson wearily greets the audience mentioning equipment malfunction (but more colorfully) explaining they have pieced something together to play with. Apparently affected instrumentation are no big problem as with the crash of Grant's drums the Scottish quintet play a seamless rendition of “The Modern Leper”. Scott asks of our well-being with an excited expression, having success with the makeshift instruments and finally moving onto “Swim Until You Can't See Land”. The crowd cheers and the band eases into the set spotlighting the new direction taken in their most recent release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The Scottish band's third album exhibits its evolution as a band slowly gelling as a more united force tackling ambiguous subject matter rather than Hutchinson's past heartbreaks. Dancing about stage, Scott blurts out in his lovable Scottish tongue his tale of new adventures. Still struggling with instrument difficulties, the issue is remedied with the crowd favorite “Old Old Fashioned” The set is turning out to be a happy marriage of previous album's pains and their newer songs which displays the growth that comes along with life lessons. “Living In Colour” another new song beckons for the crowd to clap along; Scott wails with intensity into the air. Seemingly limited with material given the situation, they finish the set with “Keep Yourself Warm”. The music strips down to his pain stricken voice shedding his misery before returning to the upbeat tempo,leaving the crowd roaring for more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This Week in Shows: A Preview of Austin

Inspired from image by Sebastian Kim

With one week until I head down to the warm weather Austin has to offer; I can't help not getting excited for a nice preview of some of the bands making their trek to SXSW.

Wednesday, March 10: Turbo Fruits and Surfer Blood will be playing Schuba's Tavern

Thursday, March 11: We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Lonely Forest make their first visit to Lincoln Hall

Friday, March 12: (Above painted) Vivian Girls head over to the Subterranean.

Aside from final planning and packing this should be a fun yet busy week.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Intimate Evening with Acrylics, Schuba's Tavern, Chicago,3.3.10

Tonight's show seems to be a well kept secret, the room is pretty spacious aside from the scattered local hipsters eager to check out the highly blogged about Acrylics. The Brooklyn, NY duo who are expanding to a full band;released their EP, All of the Fire with, Terrible Records in the Fall of 2009 are making their maiden voyage through the States in support. The noise and chatter of the audience cease as the initial notes of music commence, immediately a variety of harmonious tones blare from the stage ultimately deafening down to a pair of simple pleasant strums from the contrasting guitars. Molly Shea and Jason Klauber (joined on stage by Travis Rosenburg) , a hypnotizing pair of voices singing 70s influenced melodramatic pop music with a cinematic grandiose aesthetic. As the first song concludes, Jason expresses gratitude and introduces the band and their origin, noting how great it is to be in Chicago.
Cross breeding a variety of sounds and influences, its difficult to peg a specific classification of the trio's sound. A languid, gentle delivery of personal recounting swapped by the pair and complimented by contrasting guitar play (electric vs. acoustic) and a synth-pop accenting an upbeat, joyous chorus. After a brief miscue, the three quickly restart, "All of the Fire" an air of nervousness present but not affecting the band's pleasurable chemistry and personal enjoyment to share their tales and music. Aside from the minor mishaps from the venue's sound, an ingenious beauty exudes from the stage. After much of the trio's set, Molly finally speaks introducing the band's notable track "Molly's Vertigo." The song's lyrics paint an image of the past, surrounded by a bittersweet misery well beyond the years of the band. There is an introverted quality present, as the two expose each other's optimistic hope through their soul's aspirations and the dreamy melodies on their guitars. Thanking the audience once again, Jason introduces the set's final song, "counting sheep" an unreleased love song searching for a warm embrace for the night's end. A wonderfully warm lullaby to close the evening's performance. I am now more eager to see the band on my upcoming trip to SXSW, who will be playing 7 shows (including the first performance of the week's festivities).